If you read my list of startups using artificial intelligence in drug discovery, you may have wondered: how much traction do these companies actually have? And perhaps, if you work for a pharmaceutical or biotechnology company, a related question: are any of my competitors working with them?

To help answer such questions, this post summarizes how pharmaceutical companies apply artificial intelligence in drug discovery, including through partnerships with AI startups. As with my startup list, I aim to keep this regularly updated. So if I'm missing anything (which I certainly am, because details of partnerships are often kept secret), or you have news to share, please email me. Or post in the comments.

Here's the list:

Contents

  1. AbbVie
  2. Almirall
  3. Amgen
  4. Astellas
  5. AstraZeneca
  6. BASF
  7. Bayer
  8. Boehringer Ingelheim
  9. Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS)
  10. CJ Healthcare
  11. Celgene
  12. Eisai
  13. Eli Lilly
  14. Evotec
  15. GSK
  16. Genentech
  17. Gilead
  18. Ipsen
  19. Janssen
  20. Lundbeck
  21. Merck Group
  22. Mitsubishi Tanabe Pharma
  23. Nestlé
  24. Novartis
  25. Novo Nordisk
  26. Ono Pharmaceuticals
  27. Pfizer
  28. Procter & Gamble
  29. Roche
  30. SK Biopharmaceuticals
  31. Sanofi
  32. Santen
  33. Servier
  34. Sumitomo Dainippon Pharma
  35. Sunovion
  36. Takeda
  37. Wave Life Sciences
  38. WuXi AppTec
  39. Yuhan Corp.
  40. Zambon Pharma

Companies

AbbVie

0 logo

AbbVie hasn't publicly promoted its use of AI as much as some other pharmaceutical companies. But I have met members of its AI team and seen presentations that convince me it's a leader. In particular, I've been impressed by AbbVie's practical use of AI for automation.

Here are relevant partnerships, investments, joint ventures, and memberships I'm aware of for AbbVie:

Almirall

64 logo

Almirall is a Spanish pharmaceutical company, with headquarters in Barcelona.

Here are relevant partnerships, investments, joint ventures, and memberships I'm aware of for Almirall:

Amgen

1 logo

Amgen also hasn't publicly promoted its use of AI as much as some other pharmaceutical companies. But I have seen presentations at conferences that convey unique and sophisticated application of machine learning. In particular, I was impressed by a process that Amgen is developing to generate novel biologic drugs with machine learning.

Here are relevant partnerships, investments, joint ventures, and memberships I'm aware of for Amgen:

Astellas

2 logo

Astellas appears to be focusing AI drug discovery on repurposing existing compounds. It published a news release about "Drug Repurposing & Application Management" in February 2015, for example (this release is no longer available online). It also has a number of partnerships in the area of drug repurposing.

Here are relevant partnerships, investments, joint ventures, and memberships I'm aware of for Astellas:

AstraZeneca

3 logo

Here are relevant partnerships, investments, joint ventures, and memberships I'm aware of for AstraZeneca:

BASF

4 logo

Here are relevant partnerships, investments, joint ventures, and memberships I'm aware of for BASF:

Bayer

5 logo

Here are relevant partnerships, investments, joint ventures, and memberships I'm aware of for Bayer:

Boehringer Ingelheim

6 logo

Here are relevant partnerships, investments, joint ventures, and memberships I'm aware of for Boehringer Ingelheim:

Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS)

7 logo

Here are relevant partnerships, investments, joint ventures, and memberships I'm aware of for Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS):

CJ Healthcare

63 logo

CJ HealthCare is a South Korean medical and biotechnology company, with headquarters in Seoul.

Here are relevant partnerships, investments, joint ventures, and memberships I'm aware of for CJ Healthcare:

Celgene

8 logo

Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS) acquired Celgene, so look there for future information. I'm keeping this here for historical reference.

Here are relevant partnerships, investments, joint ventures, and memberships I'm aware of for Celgene:

Eisai

51 logo

Here are relevant partnerships, investments, joint ventures, and memberships I'm aware of for Eisai:

    Eli Lilly

    9 logo

    Here are relevant partnerships, investments, joint ventures, and memberships I'm aware of for Eli Lilly:

    Evotec

    10 logo

    Evotec refers to itself as a "drug discovery alliance and development partnership company." Its partners include many more well-known pharmaceutical companies, such as Bayer, Sanofi, Genentech, Janssen, and UCB.

    Here are relevant partnerships, investments, joint ventures, and memberships I'm aware of for Evotec:

    GSK

    13 logo

    GSK has been one of the most active pharmaceutical companies in applying artificial intelligence to drug discovery. It was one of the first to create an in-house artificial intelligence unit. (Initially called "Medicines Discovered Using Artificial Intelligence.” Now called “In silico Drug Discovery Unit.”) As of July 2019, GSK's AI team reportedly numbered about 50. In December 2019, GSK announced that it was ramping up hiring AI specialists, with the goal of adding 80 in 2020.

    Here are relevant partnerships, investments, joint ventures, and memberships I'm aware of for GSK:

    Genentech

    12 logo

    In addition to what I've outlined below, in September 2019, Genentech and parent Roche disclosed a predictive analytics project with a paper in Nature on using deep learning to predict which patients with diabetic retinopathy will progress the fastest.

    Here are relevant partnerships, investments, joint ventures, and memberships I'm aware of for Genentech:

    Gilead

    11 logo

    Here are relevant partnerships, investments, joint ventures, and memberships I'm aware of for Gilead:

    Ipsen

    14 logo

    Here are relevant partnerships, investments, joint ventures, and memberships I'm aware of for Ipsen:

    Janssen

    15 logo

    Here are relevant partnerships, investments, joint ventures, and memberships I'm aware of for Janssen:

    Lundbeck

    54 logo

    From what I can gather, Lundbeck was a bit later to the game than other pharmaceutical companies when it comes to AI. The earliest reports I can find come from 2017.

    Here are relevant partnerships, investments, joint ventures, and memberships I'm aware of for Lundbeck:

    • IBM: Given that IBM withdrew support for much of its Watson Health work, it's not clear if this partnership still exists. However, in February 2017 IBM announced a collaboration with Lundbeck to analyze information from clinical data through the Watson Health Cloud. The initial focus was deriving new understanding and potential treatments for schizophrenia and Parkinson’s disease. This included through access to anonymous health data for millions of patients in the Watson Health Cloud. ("IBM Watson Health and Lundbeck collaboration on use of artificial intelligence," 2/8/2017.)
    • Numerate: In January 2019, Numerate announced a collaboration with Lundbeck to identify drug candidates for central nervous system diseases including depression, psychosis, seizure, and neurodegenerative disorders. ("Numerate and Lundbeck Partner to Apply AI Drug Discovery to Unlock Challenges of Neuroscience Research," 1/7/2019.)

    Merck Group

    16 logo

    Here are relevant partnerships, investments, joint ventures, and memberships I'm aware of for Merck Group:

    Mitsubishi Tanabe Pharma

    17 logo

    Here are relevant partnerships, investments, joint ventures, and memberships I'm aware of for Mitsubishi Tanabe Pharma:

    • Hitachi: Mitsubishi Tanabe Pharma partnered with Hitachi to optimize clinical trial planning with AI. Announced in March 2018, the partnership will use Hitachi’s Lumada platform. It will extract information from scientific papers and ClinicalTrials.gov. A pilot of the technology found time savings of 70%. ("Mitsubishi Tanabe, Hitachi join forces in AI-enabled clinical trials," 3/29/2018.)

    Nestlé

    18 logo

    While not a traditional pharmaceutical company, Nestlé has a health science division. It aims to advance nutrition as therapy.

    Here are relevant partnerships, investments, joint ventures, and memberships I'm aware of for Nestlé:

    Novartis

    19 logo

    On the commercial side, Novartis has been quite innovative in using digital media. Its heavily digital campaign for Gilenya, for example, won multiple awards. Recently, it began making big moves with artificial intelligence. CEO Vas Narasimhan announced in a September 2017 interview that he planned to partner with or acquire AI and data analytics companies. In June 2018, Business Insider published an interview with the outspoken Jay Bradner, president of the Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research (NIBR), about the company's progress with artificial intelligence. Bradner stated that 4% of the 6,000 scientists working at NIBR are data scientists. "We like to think of ourselves as the lead turtle in the race of the turtles," he said, referring to pharma's conservative adoption of emerging technology. A July 2018 report in InformationWeek highlighted completion of the first phase of Novartis' digital transformation in drug discovery. The company rebuilt its technology infrastructure and connected its data through a single hub. It's now developing a predictive analytics platform that uses machine learning algorithms for clinical trial operations.

    Here are relevant partnerships, investments, joint ventures, and memberships I'm aware of for Novartis:

    Novo Nordisk

    20 logo

    Novo Nordisk included artificial intelligence as a focus of its September 2018 reorganization. The company laid off 400 R&D employees. But it increased investment in artificial intelligence for lead molecule selection and development.

    Here are relevant partnerships, investments, joint ventures, and memberships I'm aware of for Novo Nordisk:

    Ono Pharmaceuticals

    21 logo

    Here are relevant partnerships, investments, joint ventures, and memberships I'm aware of for Ono Pharmaceuticals:

    Pfizer

    22 logo

    Here are relevant partnerships, investments, joint ventures, and memberships I'm aware of for Pfizer:

    Procter & Gamble

    66 logo

    I haven't seen much about P&G's use of artificial intelligence for pharmaceutical products, but A2A Pharma indicates that it has a partnership with them.

    Here are relevant partnerships, investments, joint ventures, and memberships I'm aware of for Procter & Gamble:

    • A2A Pharmaceuticals: According to the pipeline page on A2A Pharma's website, it's collaborating with P&G on a cardiovascular drug.

    Roche

    23 logo

    Roche has made relatively few big announcements about its use of AI for drug discovery. But I have seen presentations displaying a well-thought-out data management structure. In addition, in February 2018, Roche acquired Flatiron Health, an oncology-focused electronic health records company. Flatiron's massive amount of oncology data provides Roche with a tremendous asset for machine learning. Also, Roche and subsidiary Genentech disclosed a predictive analytics project in September 2019 with a paper in Nature on using deep learning to predict which patients with diabetic retinopathy will progress the fastest.

    Here are relevant partnerships, investments, joint ventures, and memberships I'm aware of for Roche:

    SK Biopharmaceuticals

    27 logo

    Here are relevant partnerships, investments, joint ventures, and memberships I'm aware of for SK Biopharmaceuticals:

    Sanofi

    24 logo

    Here are relevant partnerships, investments, joint ventures, and memberships I'm aware of for Sanofi:

    Santen

    25 logo

    Here are relevant partnerships, investments, joint ventures, and memberships I'm aware of for Santen:

    Servier

    26 logo

    Here are relevant partnerships, investments, joint ventures, and memberships I'm aware of for Servier:

    Sumitomo Dainippon Pharma

    29 logo

    Here are relevant partnerships, investments, joint ventures, and memberships I'm aware of for Sumitomo Dainippon Pharma:

    Sunovion

    28 logo

    Here are relevant partnerships, investments, joint ventures, and memberships I'm aware of for Sunovion:

    Takeda

    30 logo

    Here are relevant partnerships, investments, joint ventures, and memberships I'm aware of for Takeda:

    • Massachusetts Institute of Technology: MIT and Takeda began a partnership in January 2020 centered within the Abdul Latif Jameel Clinic for Machine Learning in Health (J-Clinic). Takeda provided an initial three-year investment with the potential for a two-year extension. The funds will support 6-10 research projects per year, focusing on areas such as disease diagnosis, prediction of treatment response, development of novel biomarkers, process control and improvement, drug discovery, and clinical trial optimization. ("MIT, Takeda Partner to Develop Healthcare Artificial Intelligence," 1/7/2020.)
    • Numerate: Another Numerate partner, Takeda and the startup announced in June 2017 that they would collaborate on identifying candidates for oncology, gastroenterology, and central nervous system disorders ("Numerate and Takeda Enter Agreement to Generate Novel Clinical Candidates Using AI-Driven Drug Discovery," 6/12/2017.)
    • Recursion Pharmaceuticals: In January 2019, Takeda partner Recursion announced an expanded partnership with the pharmaceutical company to evaluate and identify novel preclinical candidates for rare diseases. The announcement reported that Recursion had evaluated compounds in over 60 indications during the prior 18 months. This reportedly resulted in new therapeutic candidates for more than 6 diseases. Takeda exercised its option for drug candidates in two rare diseases from these early results. ("Recursion Announces Options Exercise by Takeda and Extension of AI-enabled Drug Discovery Collaboration," 1/7/2019.)

    Wave Life Sciences

    31 logo

    Here are relevant partnerships, investments, joint ventures, and memberships I'm aware of for Wave Life Sciences:

    WuXi AppTec

    65 logo

    WuXi AppTec Group is a global pharmaceutical, biopharmaceutical, and medical device company.

    Here are relevant partnerships, investments, joint ventures, and memberships I'm aware of for WuXi AppTec:

    Yuhan Corp.

    47 logo

    Yuhan is a South Korean pharmaceutical and chemical company.

    Here are relevant partnerships, investments, joint ventures, and memberships I'm aware of for Yuhan Corp.:

    Zambon Pharma

    32 logo

    Here are relevant partnerships, investments, joint ventures, and memberships I'm aware of for Zambon Pharma:

    Anything I’ve missed? Let me know in the comments. Add anything I left out or got wrong for the companies above. Or tell me about companies I haven't listed yet.

    Craving more information? Check out my posts on startups using AI in drug discovery and AI in drug discovery trends and statistics.

    Credits: Logos provided by Clearbit.

    Written By:
    Simon Smith

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